Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tonight is the big three hour tour, no wait that's Giligan's Island, three hour special on Main Menu all about Vista. If you can't make it in person for the live show here's a link to Jeff Bishop's site with all the info on archives and podcast links.


Also , Digital Life has just wrapped their live coverage on Vista. The podcast and direct links go live shortly. Patrick Norton is a hero of mine and has been since "The Screen savers". Check out the down to earth geek discussion at ..


Lastly GW Micro has put up their public beta of Window Eyes 6.1. Read more at their site.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Caught up in Vista Launch Fever but don't know where to go to get your madd geek on tonight? Well check and see if your city has the launch party in your area.


Nothin' say party like an Operationg System says party because an OS party don't stop!!

And it's just that kind of sad geektastic humor you can expect tonight as MS Nerds galore stop playing their MMORPGS and venture out into the light for Vista. Represent C++!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Here is some news and tips for those who are having, looking or can't avoid running Vista as an "in place" upgrade. Looks like you can't just throw in a legal CD copy of Windows XP and run the install of XP any more. No now you must load Vista on a drive already formatted with a previous Windows install. Ars Technica has more..


Saturday, January 27, 2007

One of the long time standing IT mantras is that no version of Windows is worth it's salt any time before the first Service Pack hits the streets. There's two schools of thought on this tride and true so called rule of thumb. One is that the bugs have been all worked out over the passage of time. The other is that you aren't rolling out a platform only to spend weeks if not months with various patches to install.

While that maybe a good stratagy in the past the norm today is that you will be patching no matter what as no software leaves the *gold* status without a day of release patch on the horizon. Or there is the belief that with today's broadband connections you can always patch the product after its release with no real size limitations. Furthermore I place Patch Tuseday on the evidence table as a sign that a monthly patch cycle is now the norm rather than the exception.

But this time the Service Pack is more than a bunch of rollups and patches. In Vista the entire Kernel will be updated to make it seemlessly compatible with Vista/Longhorn/Whatever it will be named Server Edition to come out later this year. So MS isn't just trying to debunk the old adage just to speed up Vista adoption. Although it sure works out in their favor doesn't it?

Sadly for those who think that once Vista is released you are in the clear are a bit mistaken. And as a Beta Tester for various products it means that we go back under the knife with testing of the SP1 starting in March if all goes well.

Waiting for a SP1 shouldn't keep you from Vista if Vista is what you want. But if you heed my advice from July 06 you should really hold off until the summer anyway because your Assistive Technology of choice should have all the kinks worked out by then. Plus a new computer that is better suited for Office 07 and Vista will be far cheaper. Plus you really should go with a new box rather than Frankenstein up your existing system. And if your computer is more than two years old I really don't suggest the upgrade at all.

To learn more about Windows Vista Service Pack 1 read the link below.


Friday, January 26, 2007

One of the joys of being a Beta Tester is the free stuff. You get new software early. You get to know more about that software and how it works from the people who developed that software. And then you get asked to do things like this which makes you question your sanity and just why the hell you agreed to this torchure after all.

One of these moments for me is very near at hand. I will, gulp, be installing Vista on top of XP in what is referred to in the biz as a "in place" upgrade. These never go well. They are always unstable and you always end up reformatting months, um weeks alright days later.

Still some out there will not want to lose all their data. And Microsoft supports this option. So.. sigh.. I need to test if this one AT program will survive the upgrade process intact.

If you too must do this, and I take pity on you and those near you  within shouting range, here's a link to give you the heads up on what this process will be like.


Good luck to us all and see you on the dark side of the moon.

Let's catch up from me missing a day on countdown. I lost the computer to my spouse and her Neopets. What can I do? At least it's not Burning Crusade. I hear World of Warcraft ruins lives and relationships. That's why I choose Game Consoles.

Enough of that. I talked about the Family Pack the other day. This is one of those times where I am glad Microsoft copied Apple. With Mac OSX you can legally place the operating system on 4 other Macs if you purchase the Family license. Now with Vista, sadly you must buy the Ultimate Edition to do this, you can purchase additional versions of Vista for up to 2 other systems at $50 a piece. So the upside is you are all legal to run Vista on more than one system without having to pay full price for all copies. The downside is that you have to buy Ultimate for one system and the other 2 are running Home Premium Edition

Chances are though that you may not have 3 Vista Ready systems on hand. Meaning that Home Premium will be just fine on older laptops or that spare system you keep to lend out to folks in a pinch. And it's not like you can't use the Anytime Upgrade feature to make them all Ultimate versions if you so desire.

Naturally I have links on this stuff. The first is some background on why Microsoft moved to adopt this policy.


Of course there are those on the web who welcome this move and then there's dem' players who just gotta hate. Below are two such links that analyze the cost to this plan.



Now that is what I owed you guys. Let's settle today's tab.

I said the other day that you could download Vista on Day 1. Here's the link for more info.


And remember on that day, if you get everything to load the way you want it, Main Menu will be "a 3 hour tour" of Vista with guests from GW Micro and Serotek.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Back in 1999 I had a friend tell me how cool it was to be blind, walk into a retail bookstore, buy a book from the top 20 and then come home and read it that night via OCR/Scanner. Since then I have always thought that electronic media and electronic distribution was a fantastic idea for some forms of information and entertainment. Well except for iTunes. That just blows chunkcs and we all know how I feel about Apple in general.

The thing is that on January 30th we the blind won't have to go out into the cold cruel world, stand in line with the unwashed masses at Fry's or Best Buy if we wish to have Windows Vista on day of release. Mind you if this is your plan you better own a copy of Freedom Box or Window Eyes for Screen Access, however, it's still do-able if you want to be the first on your block with Vista.

What's even cooler is that if you were given that ugly Holiday sweater known as Windows Vista Home Basic as a gift from a non technical friend or relation you can pony up a few dollars and turn that ugly duckling into the beautiful swan known as Windows Ultimate without ever leaving the comfort of home.

In Vista Microsoft has set up a way to upgrade from version to higher version via a credit card, a product ID and your existing copy of Vista DVD. The disc contains all retail versions on one DVD, and like JAWS, the product ID [or PID] unlocks which version you can have access to in that particular install.

So how much does this jump from version to version cost? Check the link below to learn more. Also read that bit about Family Discounts. I will blab about that tomorrow.


Oops. Looks like I am sort of a day late. No matter because I have some links that are worth the wait.

Need a list of reasons why or why not to get Vista? In heated debates with friends, family or coworkers about upgrading? Looking for a Valentine's Day gift for the true geek in your life? Well one source has done it's own "point counterpoint" on why or why not to get Vista.

Top 10 Reasons Why To Get Vista..


Top 10 Reasons Why Not To Get Vista..


Sunday, January 21, 2007

One of the best sites on the net for accurate information on Windows Vista is the Super Site for Windows. Paul does one hell of a job in his descriptions of controls and features. He is a sighted person who uses keyboard commands due to his long time computer use in the days where there was no mouse. In fact he was one of the first people on the web to say in print which hotkeys made it from XP and Office 2003 to their 2007 counterparts. He even discusses Access issues every once in a while.

Here's a link to his review for the Ultimate Edition of Vista. It will be updated as we get closer to launch. So you may want to bookmark this for later.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

I gotta tell you guys something. I totally forget completly that I have an email address listed on this blog. No really. I forgot. So if you emailed me a while back and I never responded it was because I am just stupid and not a stupid jerk as some might say [no one step up to confirm that on line okay?].

Anyway tonight I was trying to get a note out to someone and I went into the dreaded Inbox of Shame. Understand that I do this Blog away from work. It's kind of a thing I do to pass along info I don't see elsewhere in the lists, forums and other venues where we users of Assistive Tech hang out. I also write it from a *wired in* perspective. Several big time movers and shakers stop by, and again I thank you all for even looking at what I write for any amount of time, to read these pages. And since they know where I live and work I try to be as positive as possible about products in general. In person though.. I am well known in circles for being a little too outspoken.

But one thing I try to do is just post this stuff up on the Blog and go back to rubbing my nose on the flat panel monitor. Okay I don't really do that but I needed a metaphor for the 21st century version of the grindstone.

And my casual posting method has now got to go because you awesome, fantastic and ever so smart people are asking me well thought out and thought provoking questions. While I can't answer them all due to my Non Disclosure Agreements with some Venders I will do my best to take a stab at a few answers that may help those in need out there in cyberland. Unfortunetly don't expect much in the way of Tech Support. That kinda fits in with the day job and once you open that door past your regular work hours then forever will it consume yor destiny.

Ahem, back to task. Jose wrote me an email with this question:

"Recently I acquired a used braille note and am deciding weather a transplant is worth it. You mentioned something about word of what's to come in Keysoft 8 durring the last CSun. Did you find out what that was? They didn't mention anything of the sort durring ACB's coverage.
Thanks in advance, I really appreciate your help. And keep up the blogging!


Well kind sir here's my response..

Keysoft 8 may see some press at this week's ATIA. You may want to check out Humanware.com a few times this week and see if I am right.

But honestly I completly wholeheartedly and absofreakinglutely recommend a transplant to any Note user. What I suggest you do first, as always, is see it for yourself. Contact Humanware and find your nearest dealer. Look at a mPower up close with the latest updates. And if they have it there check out that sweet new Oxford dictionary.

Why upgrade? memory for one. Tons of slots like USB for another. And if you don't have an accessible MP3 Player then here you go. Get a huge SD or Compact Flash card, download some great files or listen to the FM tuner. Then you have some cool DAISY options coming over time. What's not to like about the Voice Note and Braille Note?

But again.. personal opinion. I don't think I would have answered this if you would have asked the classic "pac Mate vs. Braille Note" debate. Seeing how you already have one on hand it's easier to say what may work out best for you.

Oh and make sure you get your name officially registered to that unit. Assistive Technology companies these days aren't too keen on EBay and users trading up or down on their hardware. Some even have specific policies about this kind of thing. So again check with a Dealer before you do anything. Hope this helps and thanks for reading!

Now if you have written me before and I, as the blockhead I already claimed to be earlier, didn't respond then feel free to try me again. I promise to check Hotmail more often in the future.

After 18 months of me going on and on and on about Vista, and for some who know me off line the time span is far greater, we now find our selves less than 10 days away from the Retail Consumer release of Windows Vista in all it's sorted flavors.

Over the next 10 days I will be posting articles that I find that you may want to read in depth if you or a loved one are considering moving to Vista with Assistive Technology. I will revisit old posts and we will look back at what I said in July 06 at the NFB Convention. Was I off my mark? Did I call it right back then? Am I off the Holiday Card list at microsoft? Well truth be told I am not on the Apple lists that for sure. More on that later.

So to prepare for our new orbit around Planet Vista I bring you the Wall Street journal's look at Vista. It's a little off the mark in where it says who copied who via OSX 10x vs. Vista, however, it does echo the recommendations on hardware I have been droning on about for a year. And no that's not why I am posting it silly. Although seeing others agree with me months later is kind of refreshing my love for tech once again.

Here's the article..


Thursday, January 11, 2007

The link below is semi factual and a bit speculative, however, there are a few phrases that you are going to hear in "buzz" blogs for a while. "Best of Breed", "Microformats" and a few other choice words are littered within this link. And the concept of a computer running many browsers for specific application needs just thrilled me to say the least. Can you imagine? It's like having a Metric and a US standard tool box. I need to look up something on books I already bought. Guess I will fire up the Amazon browser. Now I will just go to my Yahoo Groups. Let's just bring up the Yahoo browser. Mmmm... .


Friday, January 05, 2007

Today's patrol on the net turned up a lot of good reading. Some of which I think effect AT testing in the case of the Vista article I am posting.

The dark corners of XML: So supporting an open standard means you support MS Word from 14 years ago? Yup. That and Word Perfect for the last 14 years as well. Read about this and other horrors behind legacy programming for the future.


One hundred dollar laptop runs Novel: While I have agreed in the concept that this $100 Laptop was a good idea the trouble shooting Tech Support at Xmas part of me has cringed greatly at the how, what and whys of making susch a device access friendly. Reading this CNN article didn't make me feel any better about it and I guess someone out there will be doing more Open Source development for AT some point down the line.


Sanddisk 32GB Flash Hard Drive: The gang at Sandisk has been talking about Solid State drives for half a decade. Looks like it's really going to happen now. Just imagine a Pac Mate or Braille Note with a 32 GB on board built in drive. Mmmmm...


MS Patch Tuesday 2007: 8 patches and most of them are labeled Critical.


Memory Test For Vista: Looks like this is a good thing and a bad thing. On one hand I am glad that Vista detects memory failures like the one described in the link. On the other hand Vista detects memory issues XP doesn't. What to do?.. What to .. do?


IT Sell Outs: Recently an Arizona college jumped from MS Exchange to Gmail almost overnight. One of the dangers of this, and say a Government on the East Coast jumping to ODF, anti Microsoft mentality in IT is that the changes made are almost always made out of spite towards the "evil empire". As a biproduct of this knee jerk to shed anything MS related people make suggestions that don't consider the issues of special needs populations or the non technical user. The link below doesn't really address this issue, however, what it does do is call out these IT professionals for being "sell outs". I am explaining it really poorly so read this one and see what you think.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

OSX 10.5 Only Apps: So how do you deal with App Compatibility? Why you just ignore it of course. I swear I throw a Mighty One Button Mouse at the next Mac Zellet who cries Vista App Compat FUD. Grr..


Why things look better when you squint: And we visually impaired people thought it just made us look cool.


Office 2007 Review Intro from Windows Super Site: Paul has begun his heroic task to fully review Office 2007. As if he hadn't written enough on Vista. And as good as his reviews are they take some time to write and read. I expect by Easter he should be able to walk away from the keyboard. Then begins Vista Service Pack 1. Until then read his introduction to what I am sure will be a fantastic read over the next month.


Follow Up To HTML Captcha Article

I read Kelly's comment in the post on HTML Captcha about the file being gone. Sorry about that. Some of this stuff I capture from the wild gets hit by the "Digg or Slashdot Effect". Such is the way of things on the net with RSS I guess. But as a follow up I suggest the comments section for that very same article on Slashdot. There are some very neat and very scary ideas thrown about by the forum posters. The word accessibility is actually used, however, it is in a huge "cringeworthy" way. Check out the link to the Slashdot article below.. and a shout out to Mr. Ford. I am a fan sir!


Monday, January 01, 2007

HTML Encoded Captcha?

While on my morning rounds I saw this link via Slashdot. Very interesting but some AT programs would fare better than others with this method.


My Old Windows 98/ME Tips And Tricks Presentation From 2001

So I am in deep reflection mode with the recent passing of 2006 and the impending animal known to some as Windows Vista. But before I move on to the future I have to acknowledge my past. I am a creature of habbit. I still write my papers in MLA format, I rarely if ever spellcheck on the web and I tend to add humor in awkward places in these there pros. The funny thing though is that I have written like this for a very very long time.

In 2001 I spoke at the National NFB Convention in Computer Sciences. On the panel was Mr. Warwikc, the W in GW, and the guy who was in charge of making sense of AOL's attempts at Accessibility. And someone from Microsoft's C++ team. I was asked by Curtis Chong to do a piece on the *new* Windows XP operating system. Irony is that XP, like Vista, was shrouded in an AT nightmare of betas or private alpha testing cues. As a consession I offered a "Tips and Tricks" for Windows 98 and ME. The presentation went over big and I saw the electronic copy that was sent out to the NFB mailing list copied verbatum in several places. Now mind you I asked for people to do that on purpose, however, I had no idea back then that it would be done so often. Yeah well the Open Source GPL thing was new to me back then.

Therefore I give you this little ditty from 2001 as a late present. In the coming months those who read this site will be up to their ears in questions about upgrades, version numbers and hardware trouble shooting. This little guide may prove it's self useful again as the original intent was to throw it at those who you felt could figure it out on their own but just needed a nudge in the right direction. Just finding time to do that nudge was the key. For me in 2001 it was just easier to cut, copy and paste this into an email and hope the phone stopped ringing for at least a few hours!

Share and enjoy this tale of old....

Windows Tips and Tricks

By Ranger1138

Table Of Contents

1. Introduction [Example]

2. Fresh Start [System Resources]

3. That Pesky Startup Folder

4. Mix and Match [MSCONFIG]

5. Those Hard To Reach Places [REGEDIT]

6. The Importance Of Good House Keeping And I am Not Talking About The Magazine Scandisk and Defrag]

7. Temporary Housing [Deleting Temp Files]

8. Identity Crisis [System Information]

9. Holes In Your Net [Tools Within Internet Explorer]

10. X Marks the Spot [DXDIAG]

11. Believe It Or Not [System Restore]

12. The Evil That Men Do [TWEAK UI]

~ Introduction

First, let me say “Thank you” for reading this little guide. It’s not much more than rephrased paragraphs, in some cases, from people who are far more adept at technical matters than myself. In fact, almost all of the following can be learned from web searches or from the awesome folks at Tech TV.

The purpose of this short guide is to provide some useful tools to the novices among us as well as be a gentle reminder to those of us who forget these great tips when working late into the night [on a deadline with five cups of coffee].

I apologize right here and now to any advanced users out there who don’t find much in the way of new information in this guide. I was asked to keep it simple for the most part and that means the basics with a twinge of the advanced stuff. There are some links at the end of this document you might find more interesting from an advanced standpoint, however, this document is still a good tool to toss at those people out there you don’t want to re-explain things to when you are called in for free tech support. I.E. Friends and Family Members. That’s how this thing got started for me personally but more on that later.

This guide was created in Word 2000 SR1/2. I have used a basic font with little formatting in order to ease the pain for those of us who use adaptive products. I have also placed a Tilde, ~, next to each item in this guide. That way one can do a Control plus the letter F hotkey in this document for fast searches. There are little phrases next to them as well. These phrases serve as reminders for detailed searches.

Minimum Requirements

Before we get started we need to establish a point of reference. Some of these tools and articles I refer to involve a basic configuration. I would not do some of these things on a system with less than the following specs because it will increase the likelihood of it becoming more unstable. Especially when it comes to the Virtual Memory settings or Windows Swap Files.

If you do not have a system with the following specs then please use caution with any of the advanced tools mentioned at the end of this document. Unless you like your computer’s tech support department or the Spring Fresh feeling that comes from a reinstallation of Windows. Remember, you have been warned.

The minimum requirements recommended are as follows:

1. Processor: 300 MHz or higher [Intel, AMD or whatever]

2. RAM: 64 Megs, however, 128 would be wonderful. Remember that 512 or more is overkill in the Windows 9x family and it will actually slow your computer’s responsiveness down.

3. Video Card: 4 Meg or higher. This is pretty much a given for most machines with a 300 MHz processors, however, I have seen E Machines with 2 Meg cards. If you are not sure of the size of your card consult your equipment manufacturer’s support lines.

4. Sound Card: Sound Blaster compatible. I realize that is too general but it really doesn’t matter much, as far as this guide goes, unless you are running a ton of games on your system. The memory requirement of some sound cards can work against you at times but it’s rare. Also, some adaptive programs can react negatively to non Sound Blaster compatible cards so knowing what you have in your system is a must before you do any troubleshooting.

5. Operating System: Windows 98, 98SE and the ever-popular Windows Millennium. I don’t have anything against 95 but Microsoft does. The new Internet Explorer 6 and Office XP cannot be used with Windows 95. If you are running 95 you might want to think about upgrading soon.

6. Hard Drive: 6 gigabytes or higher. I have done a lot of these tricks with less but it’s dangerous. Remember that Windows loves to keep anything and everything in different files on your system… and it never ever likes to give them up. All those files take up space which effects virtual memory which effects Windows performance which effects you in the middle of the night when you are just trying to go on the net and look up one stupid piece of information but can’t because the system is taking so long. But I digress.

In all honesty, I have done several of the tips in this document with an old NEC Pentium 166 MHz with 32 MB of ram. The results ranged from good to Disaster Movie level proportions. I find that the minimums in the above paragraph are the best way to go for now or until you find that your system’s speed is too low to run common off the shelf software.

~ Fresh Start

One of the biggest problems you will run into when troubleshooting a computer is that it seems to be sluggish and unresponsive. but everything looks normal. This can be a sign of low system resources. The normal running of Windows can deplete system Resources and it’s drivers. The programs you run on a general basis also deplete it.

One way to think of System Resources would be to look at Windows like a big pie. Every time you start your computer a slice of the pie is taken away to feed your Video Card, your Sound Card and the rest of your computer hardware. Another slice is served up to those programs that must start running the second you hear your Windows Start Up noise. These would be programs like your Virus Protection.

Whatever pie you have left is served up to the rest of the programs you run at any given time, so it’s a good idea to take out those program shortcuts that eat away at your resources, but I am getting ahead of myself. Next, let’s see the status of your resources so we know how big of a pie we have available to us before we do anything else.

You can find your System Resources in the System Resources Meter option under the Accessories Folder in the Programs Menu. Don’t panic if it is not there. Sometimes it is not installed in some Windows configurations. We can access the resources from a different area.

To find them without the meter go and press/click on the Start button. From there choose Settings and then the Control Panel. Now look for the Systems icon/option, once there you will see the System Properties box. If you ever had to play with your IRQs or Device Manager then this is a familiar spot. Up at the top you will find several tabs, the one we are on now is the General tab. The one we want is to the far right and it is called the Performance tab. Use your arrow keys to navigate there or if you are a mouse user just click on the tab.

The Performance tab will list your resources in a percentage number. 80% or higher on Startup is desirable, however, the closest you can get to the elusive 95% range is better for you in the long run. This 95% goal cannot be reached by some systems because they may have too many devices that need resources. In other words, don’t worry about the number too much if you have a DVD ROM, CD Burner, IO Mega Zip, Scanner and Printer all hooked up at the same time. 80% is a good number for those of you with that many devices.

Now that we have our benchmark we can now move to the next part of the guide. Hopefully some of these steps will increase that number a bit. Any increase is a plus though because your adaptive software will eat into those resources too and that’s when you have problems. All of your programs and equipment want Windows’s attention right now and this can lead to the System Resources being low and so on. Let’s move on to the next section.

~ That Pesky Startup Folder

The Startup Folder is a file that Windows looks at first before it brings up, or displays, your Desktop. This folder can become full of stuff you don’t use and it can seriously hamper your system resources over time.

To get an idea of how much stuff is in your Startup folder you can do one of two things. You can look or change your focus to the System Tray Icons down by your clock. Or, you can press/click on Start then Programs and scan down the menu to the Startup Folder.

Most likely you will find Real Player, Task Monitor and the dreaded Office Start Up Bar. You might find other programs listed there depending on your system’s configuration.

Now you have to make some choices. What do you actually use every day on your system? Chances are that you don’t use most of these programs. So once you have identified what goes and what stays we will move on to getting rid of the unwanted programs. It should be noted that we wouldn’t be deleting any programs. Just the shortcuts that keep programs running in the background while you do other things on your computer. Again, these little shortcuts pile up after awhile and they tax your system on long sessions so it’s best to have less of them running in the background.

Let’s choose the Office Start Up Bar as our example for the removal process. One simple way of removing this guy is to press/click the Start button and then choose the Settings function. From there choose the Taskbar Option. This will bring up the Taskbar Properties box. If you look up or change your focus to the top of the window you will notice two tabs. One will say General, where you are now, and the other should say Advanced. Choose the Advanced tab. Now we have a box with several buttons on the right side. These buttons are worth exploring, however, the one we want is towards the bottom and it’s also called Advanced.

Once you press/click the advanced button you will have a new window pop up. It will contain two panes. The one on the left should have a closed list of choices. Clicking on the plus sign next to the word “Programs” can open this close list. If you aren’t a mouse user then you will want to highlight “Programs” by tabbing down to it and then you will press the right arrow key to open the tree view of the list. Look for the Startup selection and highlight it. You should now have a list of most of the things you saw from the earlier glance at the Startup Folder in the Programs area in the pane to the right. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see everything in that original list. Some shortcuts, like the Windows “Tip of the Day” are buried deep in the dark inner recesses of the Windows Operating System.

Tab or click your way to the right pane. Highlight one of the selections or our friend the Office Startup Bar and press the Delete key on your keyboard. That’s it! The program shortcut is now residing comfortably in your recycle bin. It’s a good idea to leave it there until you test your system out by restarting your computer. Some times a program has to be in the Startup Folder in order to work correctly. Our friend the Office Startup Bar does not have to be there. He is just there for the “ease of use” feature of MS Office.

Restart your machine and if your are lucky it will come back up faster because it has less to load upon Startup. Go back to the System Resources and compare the numbers. [Hint: If you don’t want to go through the steps we covered above then just use the Windows Shortcut Keys to get there faster. They are the Windows Key plus the Pause Break Key at the top right of the keyboard.]

If you have a system lock up or if you want to undo what we have done then simply go to your Recycle Bin and choose the “Restore” option from the toolbar in the Recycle Bin window.

~ Mix and Match

Another simple way of limiting your System Resources is to play with the Startup File from MSCONFIG. This handy little tool came about in Windows 98 and it is one of my all time favorites.

The easiest way to get to it is to press/click on the Start button and then choose Run. Type MSCONFIG in the edit field and hit OK or Enter. You should see a new box with several choices and tabs up at the top of the box. There is a lot of cool stuff here to play with but for now let’s just tab over to the right until you reach the Startup tab.

At the Startup tab you will find that you have a list of items with check boxes to the left of each item. You will find Task Monitor, Schedule Agent and other long time residents of the Startup Folder. You can uncheck the items you no longer want to come up every time you start Windows or you can just look at the choices for your own reference. I generally don’t use the Task Monitor or Scheduling Agent for anything so those go right out the Window for me.

I have also been known to toss out Speed Racer, haven’t seen that speed up anything really, and some Power Profile choices. Again, it’s personal preference. You don’t want to toss out anything with your adaptive product on it because that would mean it wouldn’t come up automatically any longer. And that would be bad.

Other things I would not uncheck would be anything with a Vshield or Vschwin in it. These are common virus protection files and I would not remove them. I also would be careful with some items if they had an ATI or NVIDIA label. These are common video card files and they can cause you many issues if you remove them. Use your best judgment and read the entire location, that long line to the right of the checkbox, to determine the importance of the file before you change it’s status.

The good thing about this tool is that you can easily uncheck or recheck the programs to your heart’s content without crashing your computer for the most part. The only thing you might notice is that you have a Disabled Items Folder in your Programs Menu now for some of these tools that’s not a bad thing. It’s just a Windows reminder to let you know that these programs are here when you need them.

Once you have chosen the set of checks you want to make restart your computer. Now go back and check the System Resources again and hopefully we have brought that number up a bit. Also, you might notice your system may run a little differently depending on what you have disabled. Remember that you can always go back and recheck those boxes to return to what you had before.

~ Those Hard To Reach Places

Sometimes programs will load themselves into the Startup Folder and they like it there so much that they never want to leave. Even if you ask them to nicely. Well, those programs or their shortcuts can possibly be removed from the registry

The Windows Registry is a very scary place for those who are new to computing. I implore those of you out there to follow these steps very carefully because you can do some serious damage to your Operating System if you remove the wrong things. Also, those of you on a network may not be able to do these steps because your IT staff doesn’t want you going in there. I advise that you look but don’t touch the first time you visit the registry. You can always go back after you have backed up all of your programs/data. Well, if that warning didn’t scare you off then let’s go you brave soul…

You will want to click/press Start and then choose the Run command. From there enter the ominous “regedit” but do it without the quotation marks. You should see a box with several lines, in a tree view format, with plus signs to the left of them. Select the one that says “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE”. After choosing that one you will see another list. You will want to choose Software and then look for the one that says Microsoft. From there look for the selections that say “Windows” and then “Current Version”.

Lastly, look for the Run Folder. Be sure you choose the first Run listed because the others, Run and Run once, do different things. The first Run will place some items in the right pane of this box. If you change your focus to the right you should see the first selection as the Default Values option. DO NOT MESS WITH THIS ONE! In fact, don’t delete anything unless you are feeling confident in your choices of removal.

I used to have to use this tip a lot with early versions of Windows 98. The “Tip of the Day” would not remove it’s self sometimes and this was one of the only ways of getting rid of it from the Startup Folder. You will find in this right pane some familiar programs. Most likely you will see the VSHIELD or other V programs. This is your virus protection program and it’s fine where it is. You might also see an NVIDIA, ATI or Sound Blaster program lines. Those are programs that aid your video and audio hardware. It is not advised to remove them but I have done it before and survived. It’s up to you really. Just keep that old Windows disc on stand by if you did something bad.

~ The Importance of Good House Keeping And I Am Not Talking About The Magazine

Okay, we removed some stuff but more than likely we still have some stuff floating around on the hard drive slowing us down. And as you can tell by now “It’s all about the speed”. Well, speed and performance that is. You can’t have one without the other in computing.

Some simple ways to maintain your system’s stability is the most common ones that people forget to do. Scandisk and Defrag are some of your best friends. I realize that some adaptive programs react negatively to some of the basic tools but you really need to use them from time to time to insure that your system is working as best as it can. Utilize a reader for some of this or set your system up to have audio cues for your tasks if you want to do this on your own.

Let’s check how long it’s been since you last did the basic clean up of your hard drive. Simply go to My Computer and right click/application key the drive or whatever letter your primary hard drive happens to be at the moment. The default is the letter C. You will have a box pop up with the properties of the hard drive. There will be a series of numbers and a pie chart with the amount of free space left to you on this drive. There will also be some tab categories at the top of this box. We want the Tools tab so arrow over to the right or click the Tools tab. Once there you will have two or three sections outlining the last time the system Scandisked, Defragged or backed it’s self up.

Now there are several different schools of thought on when and how often you should do the common tools listed to you here in this box. I can only advise you what I learned when I was in technical support. That is that you should Scandisk and Defrag once a month if you don’t use your computer often. I personally use the thing every day so I have a tendency to do it a bit more.

It’s personal preference but if you are showing more than 60 days I would go ahead and do the steps just to keep things in order. You can tab down to each tool and use the buttons to each one. I suggest doing a “Thorough” Scandisk every so often to maximize your Windows performance. This can be found as a radial button choice on the Scandisk control box. But just like you always here on TV “That’s not all”.

Lots of files take up memory and or space on the hard drive. These can and have been known to cause problems with the basic operations of your computer. These files can be in the form of temporary files that can just hang out forever unless you kick them off the drive. So let us now go evict some old files from their place of residence.

~ Temporary Housing

Two common places where temp files gather are on the primary drive under the route directory (usually the C drive) or in the Internet Explorer Temp File Folder. To take care of the first we can go and press/click on the Start button and then go to the Find/Search option. A sub menu w will open. Choose the Find Files and Folders option, from there type in the first edit field “*.tmp”. Make sure the bottom or the “Look In” drop down menu box states that it is going to look into the primary hard drive. Again, for most of us that is the C drive. Once that is done start your search.

If you have never done this then you might be a bit overwhelmed at the massive number of files you will encounter. I have done some tech support calls where there were easily over 1,000 files. Thanks to 40, 60 and 80 gig hard drives we barely notice these files any more but back in the day of 4 gig drives they were very noticeable.

Select one of the files and click/press the Edit option from your toolbar menu at the top of this box. If you aren’t sure where it is you can always hit the Alt key and move your arrow keys or you can just do the hotkey Control plus the A key simultaneously to Select All of the files instead of the one highlighted. After highlighting all of them you can simply press the Delete key on your keyboard to move them to the Recycle Bin. Hey! They can visit our friend the Office Tool Bar while they are in there.

Once again I urge you not to delete them from the Recycle Bin until you are sure that you don’t need them any longer. Most of these files are fragments of other programs that popped up when you originally installed them. Others could be Microsoft back ups for installation purposes. Restart your computer and if you have errors then go to the Recycle Bin and restore the ones you need and then delete the rest.

~ Identity Crisis

So you don’t have a clue as to the innards of your computer huh? Well, it’s okay because most people don’t know that information either. Device Manager is neat and everything but it doesn’t tell you some of the more intimate details of your system devices I can hear you asking now “Where can I find more info on my system in an easy to understand form?” Relax because I have the tool for you.

Well, it may not be easy to understand but System Information is a great resource on your computer that people forget about all the time. It will show you your IRQ settings, Memory Settings and oh so much more.

To get there simply press/click on Start and then choose Programs. From there go to Accessories. You will find the System Tools mid way on the menu. Open it and scroll down to the System Information Folder.

You will see that familiar two-pane window box again with the list on the left with the words and plus signs next to them. Information on your processor, system bus, memory allocation and other tech stuff can be found here. In fact, you can access some of the tools we have talked about so far from a list here in the Tools option on the Toolbar. Also, this area has a Help file where as the Device Manager has that “What’s this?” option if you right click or use your application key on a selection.

~ Holes In Your Net

The most common of all slow down complaints usually involves the Internet. Your system can actually take longer to do some things depending on how your Internet Explorer is set. For example, Cookies and other Internet Temp Files sit in your cashe or memory. These little files add up after awhile and they slow your computer down or cause pages to open slower. This is partially due to the nature of these files. They were designed to aid web developers tailor web content to meet your needs but they have now become little tattle tales who tell everyone where you have been on the net. A web page and or browser checks these files often and they sit in your memory waiting to be used at any given time. So it’s a good idea to dump them every so often. The only thing is that you may find yourself having to log back into some sites because you have deleted the information they use to tell who you are. Hotmail, news sites and some entertainment sites keep your favorite content ready and they do this by reading the Cookie on your drive. We can avoid deleting files that you want to keep but let’s discuss the full cleaning method first.

You can delete your Internet Temp Files in two ways. The first calls for you to click on My Computer and then choose your primary drive. Again, this may be C but your mileage will vary. Once you have done that look for the Windows Folder. Then choose the Internet Temp Files Folder. You can select all of these files like we did above in the Find Files or Folders tip or you can go through them one by one to look for the ones you want to keep.

The second way can be done in Internet Explorer. When you are in Internet Explorer you can click on the Tools selection from the toolbar or non-mouse users can use the hotkeys Alt plus the letter T. At the bottom of this menu is the Internet Options menu. Choosing this will open a box with several tabs at the top. I advise you to really look around in here if you use the net often to better optimize your web experience, however, for now I suggest you tab or focus on the Temporary Internet Files section. It is in the middle of the box.

Depending on the version of your Internet Explorer you may find either one or more options for the showing or the deleting of temp files. Others may see one specifically for Cookies and one for temp files. Both will work fine.

If you surf the net every day then you might want to do this tip once every 15 days or so just to aid the browser. While you’re here you can also speed up your net by limiting your History Folder to a smaller number of days. 30 days is the default but if you bookmark sites often 30 days may be hurting your download speed. You can delete the contents of your history folder every now and then too. Or, you can set the amount of space you want set aside for Internet Explorer to use on your hard drive. Either or all of these should be considered when troubleshooting any Internet Explorer errors or problems.

For those using cable modems or DSL you might also want to set your Internet Options to load pages as you go to them rather than having the system store them on the hard drive. You can actually load them quicker from your connection rather than wait on the system to find the page and then load it from your hard drive.

If you just don’t want any more Cookies ever then you can tab up to the Advance tab on the right of this box. Choose the No Cookies check box under that tab to avoid them from now on. I do have to say that more and more sites use Cookies in different ways so locking them out may give one a bigger headache then just deleting the darn things on a regular basis. The call is yours on that though.

You might be wondering about the reasons for deleting all of these files and how do they relate to the Internet. The simple explanation is that the more of these files you have on board the computer the more Windows has to juggle at one time with whatever System Resources it has available. Another analogy would be to think of your computer as a runner in a track race with hurtles. Windows/Internet Explorer has to run a race over all of those temp file hurtles to reach the web page you want to access. The more hurtles on the track means

You have to wait longer for the runner to reach the web page, uh, finish line. Make your race shorter by using these tips on a regular maintenance schedule.

~ X Marks the Spot

Another neat but hardly used tool is DXDIAG. This is the Direct X tool that can actually aid some adaptive users. Occasionally you will run into Direct X problems on computer systems that run videogames. You can trouble shoot until you are blue in the face but you can’t seem to find the error. I have used this tool to reset the factory defaults of Direct X or even disable it all together on a temporary basis to see if it is causing the adaptive software problems.

Go and press/click on Start and then choose Run. From there you type in DXDIAG. There are way too many screens here to discuss in this little guide so I suggest you explore on your own. You might actually need the makers of your video card to explain some of these functions depending on the card you are running of course. A NVIDIA card may have completely different options than an ATI so make notes as you go along.

The menus will allow you to change many properties of your video card. Refresh rates for your monitor can sometimes be found here as well. These menus can differ from your Video Card’s Open GL and the other standards used by videogames.

The scary thing that could arise from experimenting with this tool is that you could knock your system into Safe Mode. Safe Mode is a diagnostic form of Windows. It loads the absolute bare bone minimums of the Operating System. That means it loads the Video Card at 640 by 480 resolution with a color pallet of 16 awesome colors. You also have use of the keyboard, mouse, hard drive and floppy disk. You do not have access to most of your other media devices and external devices.

For a speech user this is the ultimate nightmare. There are ways of using adaptive software to read Safe Mode, however, you must use an external sound card/synth to hear anything. Also, some Large Print programs do run in Safe Mode. However their speech components, if they have any bundled within them, will not work either. My best suggestion would be to consult a user group or a local adaptive software trainer to learn how to access Safe Mode with speech.

~ Believe It Or Not

The following section is some recommendations given to me for speeding up the Windows Operating System by others who have A+ Certifications and the like. They claim that these tips work but to be honest I just don’t know. I offer them here in the interest of fairness.

One tip is that you go to the System Properties box and then you go to the Advanced tab [like we did when we wanted to find out our System Resources]. Tab down or click the File System button. In here you will find an option/drop down box for the typical role of this computer. You can change this from Desktop to Server and this is supposed to increase your speed. It has something to do with the way Windows accesses files. I have had it explained to me why this tip actually works by Microsoft Certified Professionals several times but I am still not totally convinced that this has increased my system’s speed. Just consider this one an optional tool/tip.

While you are in this File System box, if you are a Windows ME user, you can tab over to the Troubleshooting tab. There are some check boxes listed there. Uncheck the System Restore feature and Windows will stop running back and forth to save file changes every five minutes. I am joking about the time frame but System Restore can take up memory and System Resources so it’s up to you again as to how you want to play it out. I have found that if your system is using the “Go Back” utility with the System Restore enabled your system speed will drop to a crawl when using word processors. This is because you have two separate programs backing up your key system files every time there is a change or a modification.

Another Windows ME tip for speeding up your web surfing is to disable the Automatic Update feature. If you do this tip then you must remember to go to the Microsoft, and other Software Makers, websites for you to install updates manually. Go to your Control Panel and look for the Automatic Update icon/selection. A box will come up with three options. The default is the first option where Windows will update it’s self every time you go on the web. I have found that this can distract the focus of some adaptive software so you might want to go down to the third choice of the radial buttons offered. This will disable the Automatic Updates feature.

This next one is way out there but I can understand why some people do this tip. Some users disable their screen savers. The reason for this is because Windows is allocating memory to watching the clock in order to turn on your screen saver. These users simply turn off their monitor if they have to leave their systems on for long periods of time. Again, I understand the idea but I don’t know how much memory this saves you. I thought I would mention it anyway.

~ The Evil That Men Do

Okay. This one is an advance tip and I can’t even begin to tell you how much you need to be careful with it. This hidden feature, and now a downloadable program, is the single most devastating tool in the arsenal and it has caused me to reformat once or twice in my research for this document in the past, HOWEVER, it is too cool not to mention here.

The tool is called TWEAK UI and you can find it on your Windows 98 CD by going to Find Files and Folders and “Look In” your CD ROM drive. If you are not using 98 you can go to the following link [http://www.microsoft.com/ntworkstation/downloads/PowerToys/Networking/NTTweakUI.asp] to download this program from Microsoft’s web site.

TWEAK UI is a type of Registry Editor. It allows you to do such things as remove Internet Explorer 4.0 from Windows 98. You can remove the “My Computer” Icon from the Desktop. There is even a tab called “Paranoia” which deletes Cookies every time you close Internet Explorer.

Now you have to understand that if you use this tool you do so at your own risk. Microsoft does not support this tool and they will just tell you to reinstall or format your system back to factory defaults. I know because I had to tell people this when I worked in tech support.

I placed this tool in this document not only for it’s coolness aspects but it also has helped me with adapting some computers in the past. Several years ago adaptive software makers were slow to release software updates. Some creative editing of the registry was needed to make their products more accessible with some parts of Windows and or Office. TWEAK UI allowed me to turn off or disable some of these conflicts. It’s a great and powerful tool but you must always be careful when you use the Dark Side of the Force young Jedi.

~ The Last Word

Thank you for reading the, or hopefully at least some, guide. It was originally much greater in length and detail. I was reminded, however, that I would only have 20 minutes for my presentation and that there was such a word in the English language as “Overkill”. Hopefully this guide will help you in some way. Please feel free to pass it along to whomever you feel. The tips listed within can be found in web searches or by the reading of Help Files already on your system.